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It-Tlieta, 10 ta' Marzu 2009 - Strasburgu Edizzjoni riveduta

16. Ħin tal-mistoqsijiet (mistoqsijiet lill-Kummissjoni)
Vidjow tat-taħditiet
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  Presidente. − Segue-se o período de perguntas (B6-0009/2009) que, excepcionalmente, se prolonga até às 20 horas.

Começo por informar que o Senhor Comissário Kovács não estará presente, pelo que as perguntas 1 e 3 da primeira parte deste período de perguntas, dirigidas ao Senhor Comissário, serão assumidas pela Senhora Comissária Reding.

Foram apresentadas as seguintes perguntas à Comissão.

Primeira parte

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 31 da Deputada Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (H-0068/09)

Assunto: Medidas destinadas à promoção de produtos e serviços que contribuam para o aumento da eficiência energética e para a promoção das energias renováveis

No Conselho Europeu da Primavera de 2008, os chefes de Estado e de governo decidiram reflectir sobre a possibilidade de reapreciar a Directiva "Tributação da Energia" para promover o aumento da parte das energias renováveis no consumo total da energia.

O aumento da eficiência energética é uma das soluções mais rápidas, seguras e menos onerosas para reduzir a dependência da UE das fontes de energia dos países terceiros, para diminuir o consumo de energia e as emissões de CO2 e as despesas de pagamento das facturas relativas à energia dos cidadãos europeus.

No contexto da necessidade de aumentar a eficiência energética, poderá a Comissão indicar quais são as medidas e os instrumentos financeiros e fiscais que prevê para promover produtos e serviços que contribuam para o aumento da eficiência energética e para a promoção das energias renováveis?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − It is in its European Economic Recovery Plan – which has, by the way, been endorsed by Parliament and the Council – that the Commission supports the promotion of the rapid take-up of green products. It has, among other things, proposed reduced VAT rates for green products and services aimed at improving the energy efficiency of buildings in particular. Furthermore, the Commission encourages Member States to provide further incentives to consumers to stimulate demand for environmentally-friendly products.

The Commission is currently carrying out a review of the existing Community tax legislation. The objective is to eliminate as much as possible existing incentives that run counter to the objectives of energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions, as well as to create incentives where appropriate to serve these objectives.

In addition to the above fiscal initiatives, the Commission seeks to enhance the use of other financial instruments to promote energy efficiency, in particular in buildings. A sustainable energy financing initiative is being developed jointly by the Commission and the European Investment Bank. The initiative aims at mobilising funding from capital markets to be used via the participation of the Covenant of Mayors. For 2009, a budget of EUR 15 million can be expected to be made available.

The Commission has also proposed the modification of Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 on the European Regional Development Fund, which would allow use of this fund by all Member States for increased expenditure on energy efficiency improvements and the use of renewable energy in existing housing.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). - Aş dori să plec de la faptul că actuala directivă a fost prost implementată, insuficient implementată şi de aceea aş dori să întreb Comisia dacă are în vedere reducerea de TVA şi pentru produse pe viitor; de asemenea, cred că ar fi importantă creşterea, de la 3% la 15%, a cotei din Fondul european de dezvoltare regională, utilizată pentru eficienţa energetică a clădirilor şi locuinţe sociale.

De asemenea, cred că ar fi important un fond european pentru eficienţa energetică şi energii regenerabile.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − We know that it is very important to have measures to help citizens and governments go for energy efficiency. We now have some studies on the potential of tax incentives for energy and environmental purposes, and the Commission is preparing a proposal to amend the VAT directive to allow reduced rates of VAT to apply to certain environmentally-friendly goods and services.

As set out in the Economic Recovery Plan, the Commission may propose reduced VAT rates for green products and services aimed at improving the energy efficiency of buildings in particular. It should be pointed out, however, that the Commission proposal of July 2008 already provides an option for Member States to apply these reduced VAT rates on services involving the renovation, repair, alteration and maintenance of housing, places of worship and of cultural heritage, and historical monuments. This includes work aimed at increasing the energy savings and efficiency of the buildings concerned.

The Ecofin today came to a compromise. It is too early to say exactly what we are going to do in detail with the Ecofin proposals, but the Commission is going to study the proposals that were made today.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident! Ich möchte mich ausdrücklich bei der Kommissarin und bei der Kommission bedanken, dass vor allem das Thema Wärmedämmung in Gebäuden hier angesprochen wurde. Es ist eine der effizientesten Formen, Energie einzusparen, und so gesehen scheint mir das ein wichtiger und richtiger Weg zu sein. Meine Frage in diesem Zusammenhang: Sieht die Kommission hier eine Möglichkeit, für Niedrigenergiehäuser und Nullenergiehäuser im Fertigbaubereich die entsprechenden Mehrwertsteuerreduzierungen vorzusehen? Kann man das andenken und wohin soll die Reise gehen?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Mitglied der Kommission. − Herr Präsident! Das ist eine sehr interessante Idee, die von dem Abgeordneten vorgeschlagen wurde. Diese Idee wird zusammen mit den anderen uns vorliegenden Ideen zur Energieeffizienz beim Häuserbau oder bei der Renovierung von Häusern selbstverständlich von der Kommission analysiert werden. Ich kann auch darauf hinweisen, dass die Kommission eine Umstrukturierung der Strukturfonds vornehmen wird, damit auch über die Strukturfonds in diese energieeffizienten Häuser investiert werden kann.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 32 do Deputado Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos (H-0100/09)

Assunto: Interpretação mais flexível do Pacto de Estabilidade e Crescimento

Pergunta-se à Comissão se, e por que razão, num período de tão grave crise económica, persiste no seu ponto de vista de que a redução do défice de todos os países se confrontam com este problema deve ser efectuada num período de dois e não de três anos, prazo que, segundo os dados disponíveis, parece mais lógico? Como concilia esta insistência com a opinião do Presidente do Eurogrupo favorável a uma interpretação mais flexível do Pacto de Estabilidade e Crescimento (declarações de 20.1.2009, à agência Europe)?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − Under normal circumstances, the Stability and Growth Pact presumes there will be rapid correction of the excessive deficit and this correction should be carried out the year after such an excessive deficit has been identified. However, the reformed Stability and Growth Pact also allows for longer deadlines in the case of special circumstances – in accordance with Article 34 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1467/97.

The Pact does not provide an explicit definition of these special circumstances. However, when preparing a report under Article 143 of the Treaty triggered by the existence or the planned excessive deficit, the Commission is required by the Treaty to take into account what are known as ‘relevant factors’. In this report, the Commission shall reflect developments in the medium-term economic position, in particular potential growth, prevailing cyclical conditions, the implementation of policies in the context of the Lisbon Agenda and policies to foster research and development and innovation. It shall also reflect developments in the medium-term budgetary position, in particular fiscal consolidation efforts in good times, the level of public debt and sustainability issues, external financing needs, public investment, and the overall quality of public finances. It shall also take into consideration any other factors which, in the opinion of the Member State concerned, are relevant in order to comprehensively assess in qualitative terms the excess over the reference value and which the Member State has, of course, put forward to the Commission and to the Council.

The provisions of the relevant factors to be considered indicate that determining the incidence of special circumstances should be based on an overall assessment of such factors. On 18 February, the Commission adopted its recommendations for Council opinions on the latest updates of the stability and convergence programmes for 17 Member States. At the same time, and taking into account its assessment of these programmes, the Commission adopted reports for Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Latvia and Malta. The Ecofin adopted its opinion on these reports this morning. The Commission will propose recommendations to the Council to put an end to situations where an excessive deficit exists. These recommendations will include deadlines which will have been decided according to the Stability and Growth Pact, i.e. taking into consideration the existence of special circumstances, where appropriate.

 
  
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  Γιώργος Δημητρακόπουλος (PPE-DE). - Κύριε Πρόεδρε, θα ήθελα να ευχαριστήσω την κυρία Επίτροπο για την πολύ αναλυτική απάντηση. Πλην όμως, πρέπει να σας πω ότι έμεινα λίγο έκπληκτος, γιατί σε όσα σημαντικά είπατε δεν αναφερθήκατε στην έννοια του χρονοδιαγράμματος, εάν δηλαδή η Επιτροπή θα εισηγηθεί συγκεκριμένα χρονοδιαγράμματα ανά περίπτωση και, δεύτερον, εάν μπορεί στην εισήγησή της η Επιτροπή να συνδέσει τις φάσεις των χρονοδιαγραμμάτων με τη μείωση του ποσοστού πάνω από το 3%.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE). - Herr Präsident, Frau Kommissarin! Ich habe zwei kurze Fragen. Die erste Frage ist: Was ist mit jenen Ländern, die wirklich provokant niedrige oder gar keine Unternehmenssteuern verlangen? Ist es da fair, wenn sie dann andererseits aufgrund weniger Steuereinnahmen in Schwierigkeiten kommen, hier vor Aufweichungen des Paktes die Augen zu verschließen?

Das Zweite ist: Sollte man diese Frage nicht auch an einen gewissen Erfolg knüpfen? D.h., wenn ein Land über die Maßen mehr Defizit hat, aber dafür die Arbeitslosigkeit bekämpft und diese Arbeitslosigkeit wirklich zurückgeht, würde es dann nicht Sinn machen, so etwas zu fördern?

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). - Has there been a change in the Rules of Procedure? I thought it was the questioner who had a supplementary, plus two other Members.

Secondly, what time does Question Time continue until tonight as we started late?

 
  
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  Presidente. − Senhora Deputada, vamos efectivamente terminar às 20 horas, como está previsto. Começámos mais tarde e terminaremos mais tarde. Mas não há pergunta complementar, ao que parece, da Senhora Deputada Avril Doyle?

Deseja colocar a sua pergunta complementar, Senhora Deputada?

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). - Mr President, I do. My apologies. I understood you were only giving it to the Questioner and one other. I misunderstood the point you made.

I would like to follow through by asking the Commissioner to name any Member State that will not have an excessive deficit, as understood to date.

Secondly, could she develop exactly what the Commission is going to propose to the Council as decided this morning in relation to Ireland?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − In answer to the question by Mr Dimitrakopoulos, the Commission, when proposing the deadlines for a Member State to return to a sustainable position of public finances, will take into account the room for manoeuvre available to the Member State concerned. A call for rapid fiscal consolidation can be expected only in cases of danger of a public finance crisis, taking into account the financing needs of the whole economy.

As for the second question, which was a double question, the answer to the first part is ‘no’. The answer to the second part – on countries with low corporate tax – the Stability and Growth Pact assesses the global fiscal position of a Member State, not the specific tax structure of each Member State.

In reply to the third question, on whether there are any Member States without excessive deficit, there are of course certain Member States without excessive deficit, as can be seen in the charts which the Commission regularly publishes.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 33 do Deputado Pedro Guerreiro (H-0125/09)

Assunto: Fim dos "paraísos fiscais"

A Comissão já propôs ou tenciona propor o fim dos "paraísos fiscais", nomeadamente na União Europeia?

A UE adoptou alguma decisão no sentido de propor aos seus Estados-Membros o encerramento dos "paraísos fiscais" existentes nos seus territórios?

Que medidas vai a Comissão tomar para acabar com os "paraísos fiscais", para combater a especulação financeira e para pôr cobro à livre circulação dos capitais, nomeadamente ao nível da UE?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, membre de la Commission. − Monsieur le Président, la Commission mène, depuis la fin des années 90, une politique déterminée de lutte contre la fraude, l'évasion fiscale et la concurrence fiscale dommageable.

Un élément clé de cette politique est la promotion de la transparence des systèmes fiscaux et de l'échange des renseignements entre administrations fiscales. Dernièrement, cette politique s'est vue confirmée par les déclarations claires du G20 visant à attaquer les pratiques non transparentes de certaines juridictions, souvent décrites comme paradis fiscaux.

La Commission a renforcé sa politique dans ce domaine, fin 2008 et début 2009, en présentant deux propositions.

La première vise à renforcer l'échange d'informations prévu par la directive sur l'épargne. La seconde a pour effet de proposer que tous les États membres alignent leurs standards d'échange d'informations sur le niveau le plus ouvert, notamment en s'assurant que le secret bancaire ne puisse pas être invoqué par un État membre pour refuser de fournir les informations dont d'autres États membres auraient besoin pour l'imposition de leurs résidents.

En mai 2008, le Conseil a décidé de promouvoir auprès des pays tiers cette politique de bonne gouvernance fiscale couvrant les principes de transparence, d'échange de renseignements et de concurrence fiscale loyale, et il a chargé la Commission de négocier des clauses dans les accords avec les pays tiers.

La Commission a l'intention de présenter prochainement une initiative politique en vue de mettre en évidence la cohérence de cette politique et les éléments clés pour s'assurer de sa réussite. La Commission considère en particulier que la mise en œuvre de mesures coordonnées au niveau européen serait de nature à répondre aux préoccupations exprimées par l'honorable député.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL). - Face ao que foi dito, pelos vistos "foram mais as vozes do que as nozes", isto é, os "paraísos fiscais" e o seu fim não estão em questão, mas colocaria a seguinte pergunta: como pretende a Comissão dissuadir os bancos de operarem em centros "offshore", como divulgou essa intenção? E que medidas efectivas pretende propor para combater a especulação financeira que integra as causas da actual crise financeira e económica?

 
  
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  Robert Evans (PSE). - The Commissioner must know a little bit about tax havens, because Luxembourg rather falls into that category. Does she not feel that this undermines the whole principle of a common market, with lorries driving out of their way to get the cheap fuel there?

Then there is Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man – which are in the UK but outside the EU – Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino etc. They are all little tax havens, with offshore banking, which we have just heard about, pandering to the rich. They only exist because the EU allows them to do so.

These are her words: ‘a resolute policy against tax evasion’. If that were true, would not the Commission include some suggestions for abolishing these tax havens?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − In answer to the first question, the Commission has proposed two new directives in order to solve these problems because the financial crisis has highlighted the problems more clearly than before.

We made a proposal at the end of 2008 and another one at the beginning of 2009, the former reinforcing the information exchange and the latter enshrining the right of a Member State to obtain information without the other Member State invoking banking secrecy.

As for the second question I just want to underline that lorries have nothing to do with tax havens.

 
  
 

Segunda parte

 
  
  

Pergunta n.º 34 do Deputado Claude Moraes (H-0048/09)

Assunto: A Internet e os crimes de ódio

O incitamento ao ódio racial é crime em todos os Estados-Membros da UE. Porém, segundo o estudo de 2008 sobre crimes de ódio, publicado pela ONG "Human Rights First", os crimes de ódio registam um aumento na Europa, sendo importante examinar o papel central que a Internet desempenha aqui.

Como parte do seu objectivo de combater o cibercrime e de criar uma Internet mais segura para todos, pergunta-se se a Comissão está a tomar medidas concretas que contribuam para combater os sítios web que incitam ao ódio e à violência raciais.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − The question which was asked is very important, and I would like to underline that the Commission strongly rejects the racism, xenophobia and any type of hate speech the honourable Member refers to. The Commission also shares the concerns raised, and is aware that certain content available on the Internet can have a very negative impact.

The Commission fights racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in all media platforms, and not just the Internet, as far as possible, under the powers conferred by the Treaties. On this basis, the Commission has taken a number of initiatives – legislative and non-legislative – which seek to prevent discrimination as well as racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic speeches. Firstly, there is the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which extends minimum standards for content to all audiovisual and media services, and that includes on-demand offers on the Internet. This includes: ‘prohibition of incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality’. Furthermore, the Commission had adopted policies that aim at reducing racist content online. I would just underline here the recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity and on the right of reply, which calls for action against discrimination in all media.

The recently-adopted Council framework decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law sets out a common EU approach to racism and xenophobia. The framework decision aims at criminalising international conduct, such as incitement to violence or hate towards a group of people or against a person belonging to a group defined on the basis of race, colour, descent, religion, belief, or national or ethnic origin.

Incitement to violence or hatred would also be punishable if committed by public dissemination and distribution of tracts, pictures and other materials. The Member States have an obligation to comply with those provisions by 28 November 2010.

Apart from this legal approach, the Commission is promoting a set of measures for the safer use of the Internet. I think Parliament well knows the Safer Internet Plus Programme, with a budget of EUR 55 million for the period 2009-2013, which co-funds projects with the following objectives: increased public awareness, provision of a network of contact points for reporting illegal and harmful content and conduct, in particular on child sexual abuse material, grooming and cyber-bullying, fostering of self-regulatory initiatives in this field and involving children in creating a safer online environment, establishing a knowledge base of the new trends in the use of online technologies and their consequences for children’s lives.

The Commission furthermore strives to promote a responsible use of media and the Internet. In its communication on media literacy of December 2007, the Commission calls on Member States to commit to more effectively promoting media literacy and research in this field. This year it will present a recommendation on media literacy.

It is also worth noting that our neighbour, the Council of Europe, has developed a series of international legally binding and non-binding instruments on these issues, which all show that cyberspace is not a lawless area and that Member States are bound to protect individual rights and freedoms through their national laws, inter alia the Cybercrime Convention and its additional Protocol 3.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes (PSE). - Commissioner, I do not doubt for one minute your commitment to this area. I know you have looked into it in great detail. But concerning this issue which you mentioned of the ‘lawless area’ of cybercrime, are you convinced, specifically in connection with inciting hatred – which is a criminal offence in all Member States, I think – that the implementation of the Framework Decision, the Audiovisual Directive and many of the other instruments that you have mentioned, is actually stopping the proliferation of these sites? The evidence so far is that they are increasing as we speak. Do you feel that we should take further action?

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). - Commissioner, there is no greater hate crime than murder, and this week in my constituency of Northern Ireland we had three hate murders of members of the security forces by Irish Republican terrorists.

And yet within hours there were a number of sites, across the internet, glorifying those hideous murders and praising those who had carried them out. So, as well as looking at racism and xenophobia, is the Commission focused on how it deals with the abuse of the Internet by terrorist parasites?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − There is no excuse for crime, wherever that crime has taken place – be it in the real world or in the digital world – but of course it is much easier to fight crime in the real world because you have the instruments which allow you directly to intervene. It is much more complicated on the worldwide web, and that is why we have developed a whole series of instruments in order to fight such crime.

I know from discussions with my colleague, Jacques Barrot, that police forces are building up a network of analyses in order to fight crime on line, and that they are having more and more success in catching the criminals. However, there are also more and more sites being constructed. I myself have tried, with the Safer Internet Programme, to do something else in this respect. This is to empower people – and most of all young people – who utilise the Internet to know what to do when they come across negative content. For instance – and we are not necessarily speaking about crime, but about cyber-bullying, which can become terrible for young people – that there is a special report button for them to ask for help.

So we are trying by different means to fight criminals by means of the police forces, by empowering educators, parents and children so that they can take a decision by themselves or report, and of course by media literacy programmes, which I personally would wish to be much more numerous in the Member States. You have to give tools to the next generation to find a solution and to fight, because, if not, then we might have a problem with the Internet, and that parents will not allow, for instance, their kids to be on the Internet, and that would not be the right way to proceed. We want the positive site of the Internet to flourish and the negative side of the Internet to be blocked.

Now to the murder question which the honourable Member underlined. This is a terrible thing to happen, and I believe that it is within the field of activity of the police and security forces to block all this. Those tools should of course not be regarded as something which can be utilised for solving all society’s problems, but when it comes to crime there can be no discussion. Crime has to be fought and it has to be fought very strongly.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 35 do Deputado Eoin Ryan (H-0055/09)

Assunto: Tecnologias da informação e da comunicação (TIC) e Sociedade da Informação

A Comissão conferiu um lugar central nos seus programas ao desenvolvimento das TIC e da Sociedade da Informação, o que comporta grandes potencialidades para a economia e a sociedade europeias. Todavia, que medidas está a Comissão a tomar para garantir que determinadas categorias da sociedade europeia – nomeadamente os idosos ou as pessoas com baixos rendimentos – não sejam deixadas para trás ou mesmo esquecidas neste processo?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − Information and communication technologies have a huge potential for helping older people. Well, that is easily said and not so easily done because we do have a real digital divide here. It is those people who badly need ICT tools who, because they have never used those tools in their lives before, are not used to utilising them. For instance, only 15% of older people use the internet. That is why we have to develop a whole policy in order to bring this barrier down, because we will need ICT to enable older people to stay active and productive for longer, to continue to engage in society with more accessible online services, and to enjoy a healthier and higher quality of life for longer.

That was exactly why the Commission presented in 2007 an action plan for ageing well in the information society with very concrete measures.

The first measure is on research and innovation in order to develop and test technologies for social care and independent living for older persons. I must pay tribute to our industries because, through these research programmes, the industries have developed a whole series of mechanisms, services and products which help older people to stay longer in their own homes.

The second measure is to raise awareness of the benefits among users and public authorities through the establishment of a best practice internet portal and European award schemes for smart homes – independent living applications for instance.

The third is to reduce the fragmentation of approaches in deploying these technologies in Europe.

In 2008 the Commission adopted two other initiatives.

The first was a new joint programme to support joint research with Member States in the area of ambient-assisted living: those are the technologies for home applications and for mobility, assisting older users in their daily lives and providing social care applications.

The second was the new communication on e-accessibility, fostering the use of ICT goods and services by older people and by people with disabilities, and inviting Member States to take all necessary steps to improve the accessibility of public websites.

In line with those measures, between now and 2013, the EU, together with Member States and the private sector, will invest more than EUR 1 billion in research and innovation for the ageing society.

So you see we really take that very seriously and we believe that we have possibilities here to improve life in an ageing society.

On the problem of low-income users, I would refer first of all to the second package of the roaming regulation which Parliament adopted in the ITRA committee yesterday night; one element of this package is to bring down the prices of using mobile phones, land-lines, the internet, etc.

The Commission has also set up a consumer market scoreboard that permits monitoring of market outcomes for consumers. The evidence on the scoreboard helps us to better take account of consumer interests.

The new proposals which are before Parliament in the review of the telecom market also aim to strengthen consumers’ and users’ rights with a view to improving accessibility and promoting an inclusive society.

It has been proposed, for instance, to amend some provisions in order to take better account of the needs of the elderly and those with special needs, and those should be general objectives guiding the activity of the national regulatory authorities.

 
  
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  Eoin Ryan (UEN). - I would like to thank the Commissioner. I do not for one minute doubt that the Commission is doing an awful lot on IT information. You can see a lot of the work they do. I am a recent participant in the ‘Twitter’ site and I have to say that I am more than surprised and impressed at how much information is on that site from the European Union. It gives a huge amount of information and I would like to congratulate them on that.

However, we still have a problem with people from disadvantaged backgrounds and elderly people using and accessing the Internet and new technologies. This is changing all the time, but we have an opportunity, or a challenge, between now and the June elections, and I would just like to ask you whether you have any plans to try to get more people to participate on the Internet to promote the June elections in the European Union.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). - Vreau să vă felicit pentru ceea ce faceţi pentru copii şi internet şi, de asemenea, pentru decizia de a avea acoperire 100% pentru broadband până în anul 2010.

Vreau să spun că, în România, persoanele în vârstă, părinţii comunică ieftin şi eficient cu copiii plecaţi în străinătate prin internet; îi văd şi îi aud. Totuşi, vreau să vă întreb ce faceţi pentru dezvoltarea serviciilor electronice. Mă refer aici la infrastructura de chei publice.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident, Frau Kommissarin! Die Industrie produziert tatsächlich Geräte, die auch für ältere und behinderte Benutzer für die verschiedenen Zwecke der Informationsgesellschaft gut geeignet sind. Allerdings werden fast sämtliche Handys, Notrufknöpfe und ähnliche gadgets prinzipiell sehr teuer angeboten.

Kann die Kommission hier etwas tun? Besonders einfache Technologie zu besonders teuren Preisen zu verkaufen, ist nämlich nicht sehr verbraucherfreundlich.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − First of all, the Internet and the elections. This is a question which those who are standing for election, the MEPs and the candidates, should take on board and on which they should develop better communication with their citizens. In recent years so many positive actions have been taken with the help of the European Parliament that it should not be very difficult to present all these positive actions to citizens.

Looking only at the examples of e-inclusion in Ireland, for instance, I can give the list of those which have been put into practice on the territory of Ireland with Irish companies, research centres and NGOs. It will be very interesting, even for the MEPs themselves, to explain what is being done via the European budget to improve the life of citizens.

The second question was about the young and the old, and how they can communicate better. Well, I can tell you that my mother, who had never used a mobile phone, bought one in order to communicate with her grandchildren because she understood that this was the only way they could call her. Now she is very much upset if they do not call her often enough. But I have also met a lot older persons who have come to use the Internet because of Skype, because their children or grandchildren are abroad and they would like to speak with them.

That is why we are trying to develop measures towards a real internal market for communications in Europe, so that this communication will be swift and not very expensive.

That brings me to the third question: what about the price of the communications? There are a lot of services in operation which bring down the price of communications. Now it is true that those services or those items specially adapted to the older generation are being kept on the home market, because the market is not yet developed very strongly and they are still too expensive.

There is only one solution to this, namely to develop the market, because if thousands and thousands of older people take up those services, take up those instruments, the price will become affordable. So we have to raise awareness to promote the take-up of these ICT goods and services which I believe will be one of the solutions to the problems of the ageing society.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 36 do Deputado Gay Mitchell (H-0065/09)

Assunto: Controlo da Internet

Constatei que a Internet se tornou um porto de abrigo seguro para os racistas e outros fanáticos manifestarem as suas opiniões.

A Comissão abordou esta questão? Em caso afirmativo, que medidas está a tomar?

As perguntas n.º 37 a n.º 40 receberão uma resposta por escrito.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − The question the honourable Member has asked is not new, which shows that it is something that is very dear to the heart of MEPs.

I would recall the answer I gave to the questions by Mr Moraes on the Internet and hate crimes, by Luca Romagnoli on content and the use of blogs, and by Robert Kilroy-Silk on racism and violence on social websites. I can tell you not only that those questions have been asked but also that the Commission has taken action in this area.

Speaking only about the social websites, some weeks ago all the social networking site providers sat around a table and signed a code of conduct to help young children and adolescents to fight against negative content on these websites.

As you know, the Commission strongly rejects all racist and xenophobic views conveyed on the Internet, together with the types of hate speech cited by the honourable Member in his question. As is often the case with the web, the picture is one of stark contrasts. On the web, the best rubs shoulders with the worst: on the one hand, there are tremendous opportunities to diffuse and receive valuable, targeted information, for better social cohesion; on the other hand, it is an ideal forum for stereotypes, prejudices, derogatory views and even dangerous content, as was mentioned in the question.

Here lies the danger: should the state go and block access to websites or filter search-engine results? This is already being done by authoritarian states. In democratic countries, such as the EU Member States, restrictions on the freedom of speech are exceptional and governed by the rule of law.

It is worth noting that the Council of Europe has developed a series of international, legally binding instruments, directly and indirectly concerning the Internet. These uphold the belief that cyberspace is not a lawless area, but is subject to the rule of law. I would recall the Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocol.

The Commission has also adopted policies aimed at reducing racist content online, notably the recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity and the right of reply, which calls for action against discrimination in all media.

I would also like to draw attention to the Framework Decision on combating certain forms of expression of racism and xenophobia, which aims at criminalising intentional conduct, such as incitement to violence or hatred towards a group of people or against a person belonging to that group. This is a criminal offence if committed by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material, and here the Member States have the obligation to comply with the provisions of the Framework Decision by 28 November 2010.

I could also underline that the European law already prohibits incitement to hatred on grounds of sex, race, religion or nationality in TV broadcasts and in TV online.

So we already have a whole series of mechanisms, a whole series of laws and a whole series of measures implementing these laws. But as always with negative content – be it in the traditional media or on the Internet – it pops up more quickly than you can fight it.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). - I would like to thank the Commissioner for her reply. In recent days we have seen in Northern Ireland two soldiers and a policeman killed, as has been referred to by another Member, by people who secretly arrogate to themselves the right to do things like this based on bigotry and evil and – yes – racism and xenophobia. They, and their like, use such things as the Internet to recruit and to spread their evil words and deeds.

It seems to me very clear, for example, that if the rules for entering chat rooms were to be tightened up, by not allowing the use of, for example, Hotmail – I confess I do not know very much about it but it is very easily used – and insisting instead on some sort of traceable e-mail, then the people who do these sorts of things, which they could not do in the open, would be more easily traced. I ask the Commissioner to use all her powers to continue to pursue this issue, because it is not acceptable that the Internet should be used for racism and xenophobia.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − Crime is crime wherever it happens, and that is why we also have instruments to go after crime when it is committed on the Internet. Together with my colleague Jacques Barrot, we will develop those instruments so that they become stronger and are used more efficiently. The problem of the Internet, of course, is that it goes beyond national territory, which is why collaboration between police forces and those forces which combat terrorism and international crime has to be reinforced. In recent years, we have seen those forces working together with very good results. I hope and I think these efforts will continue.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 41 do Deputado Bernd Posselt (H-0061/09)

Assunto: A Sérvia e o estatuto de país candidato

A concessão à Sérvia do estatuto de país candidato à adesão à UE constitui recorrentemente objecto de debate. Não será perigoso conceder à Sérvia o estatuto de país candidato ou, mesmo, de Estado-Membro da UE, antes de o conceder à República do Kosovo, atendendo a que Belgrado poderia utilizar essa vantagem para bloquear futuras negociações de adesão entre a UE e a República do Kosovo ou qualquer outra forma de estabelecimento de relações?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Membru al Comisiei. − Perspectivele Serbiei de aderare la Uniunea Europeană depind de îndeplinirea, de către această ţară, a criteriilor de aderare de la Copenhaga, precum şi a condiţiilor prevăzute în cadrul procesului de stabilizare şi de asociere, inclusiv a condiţiei de a coopera deplin cu Tribunalul Penal Internaţional pentru fosta Iugoslavie.

Cu toate acestea, Serbia nu este o ţară candidată şi, până în prezent, nu a solicitat integrarea în Uniunea Europeană. Prin urmare, nu sunt în situaţia de a emite o părere cu privire la ceea ce ar putea să se întâmple în viitor şi la acţiunile pe care Serbia ar putea să le adopte sau nu în legătură cu Kosovo.

În eventualitatea în care Serbia ar depune o cerere de aderare, Comisia Europeană va întocmi, ca urmare a solicitării formulate de Consiliu, un proiect de aviz pe baza criteriilor obiective stabilite, aplicate tuturor statelor care solicită aderarea la Uniune. În continuare, Consiliul European este cel căruia îi va reveni rolul de a decide dacă va acorda sau nu statutul de ţară candidată.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident, Herr Kommissar! Ich schätze Sie persönlich sehr, deshalb bedaure ich, dass der Kommissar Rehn nicht da ist, denn mit der Antwort bin ich überhaupt nicht zufrieden. Die hätte ich mir aus dem Internet abschreiben können.

Ich sage ganz klar, worauf sich meine Frage bezog: Es wird über ein Stabilisierungsabkommen mit Serbien verhandelt, das in Vorbereitung ist. Ich möchte die Kommission auf die Gefahr hinweisen, dass es hier eine Blockade Serbiens gegen Kosovo geben könnte, wie es sie in der UNO und im Europarat gibt. Ich wollte fragen, was man tut, um etwas Ähnliches zu verhindern wie die derzeitige Blockade Kroatiens durch Slowenien.

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Membru al Comisiei. − Aşa cum am spus în răspunsul meu, nu dorim în niciun fel să anticipăm cu privire la posibile acţiuni viitoare. În momentul de faţă, Serbia se află într-un anumit moment, încă nu şi-a depus cererea de aderare la Uniunea Europeană; o să vedem ce va urma în perioada viitoare.

Deci, aşa cum am spus, nu facem speculaţii cu privire la ipotetice situaţii viitoare.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 42 da Deputada Sarah Ludford (H-0072/09)

Assunto: Adesão da Sérvia

Poderá a Comissão Europeia declarar explicita e firmemente a impossibilidade de lograr novos progressos no respeitante à adesão da Sérvia à UE, a menos que Ratko Mladic e Goran Hadzic, os dois restantes fugitivos do TPIJ, sejam entregues à Haia?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Membru al Comisiei. − Aderarea Serbiei la Uniunea Europeană depinde de îndeplinirea de către Serbia a condiţiei politice de a coopera pe deplin cu Tribunalul Penal Internaţional pentru fosta Iugoslavie, concomitent cu respectarea de către Serbia a tuturor celorlalte obligaţii care sunt o condiţie pentru integrarea în Uniune.

În această privinţă, Comisia împărtăşeşte concluziile Consiliului din aprilie 2008, în care se reiterează că deplina cooperare cu Tribunalul Penal Internaţional pentru fosta Iugoslavie, inclusiv depunerea tuturor eforturilor posibile pentru arestarea şi transferarea persoanelor puse sub acuzare, constituie un element esenţial al procesului de stabilizare şi de asociere.

În această privinţă, evaluarea întreprinsă de procurorul-şef al TPI, Serge Brammertz, este de o importanţă deosebită. Am stabilit o legătură strânsă şi constantă cu acesta. De asemenea, comisarul Rehn a profitat de fiecare ocazie pentru a face apel la autorităţile Serbiei de a pune pe deplin în aplicare recomandările făcute de procurorul-şef în raportul său din decembrie 2008, adresat Consiliului de securitate al Organizaţiei Naţiunilor Unite.

Aceasta este calea cea mai sigură prin care Serbia poate realiza cooperarea deplină cu Tribunalul Penal Internaţional şi poate realiza progrese pentru îndeplinirea aspiraţiilor sale de a deveni membră a Uniunii Europene.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). - I am very supportive of Serbia making progress towards EU accession, as I am all of the Western Balkans, as a former member of the relevant European Parliament delegation.

The problem is that when we say Serbia’s accession will depend on full cooperation with the ICTY, this begs the question of when exactly we will make this criterion bite.

I really want to try and get from the Commissioner the fact that no further progress will be made now, in the next few weeks, unless these fugitives are delivered.

Can he also tell me that no further progress can be made regarding Croatia’s accession unless the ICTY is satisfied that there is full cooperation over evidence and witnesses regarding the Croatian invitees?

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident! Ich möchte mich der Frage der Kollegin Sarah Ludford anschließen. Der Kommissar hat zu Recht gesagt, dass das für Serbien ein Kriterium ist. Er hat aber nicht gesagt, ob Serbien dieses Kriterium erfüllt oder nicht. Das würde mich interessieren. Erfüllt Serbien das Kriterium einer vollen Kooperation? Bei Kroatien wissen wir, dass das Kriterium erfüllt ist.

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − You are aware that in the Council there are different opinions concerning this issue and you know that there is no unanimity concerning the position of the Council on this issue. So, as I said in my answer we, the Commission, fully share the opinions of the Council – and I refer to the conclusions of the Council from April 2008 – that the full cooperation with the Tribunal is essential for following the process.

 
  
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  Presidente. − As perguntas n.º 43 e n.º 44 receberão uma resposta por escrito.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 45 do Deputado Yiannakis Matsis (H-0095/09)

Assunto: Usurpação de património de cipriotas gregos na zona ocupada de Chipre, com financiamento da Turquia

A antiga Ministra dos Negócios Estrangeiros de Chipre, Erato Markoulli, denunciou publicamente uma vaga de usurpação de património de cipriotas gregos na península de Karpasia, sob ocupação turca, com financiamento da Turquia.

A Sra. Markoulli participa nas conversações para a resolução da questão cipriota e, manifestamente, neste quadro, bem como com base noutras informações, teve conhecimento desta situação. A Turquia, país candidato à adesão à UE, que simultaneamente é a potencia ocupante de parte do território de um Estado-Membro da UE, a República de Chipre, organiza a usurpação do património propriedade de cidadãos europeus e viola deste modo o direito internacional, os direitos individuais e os valores e princípios da UE.

Como qualifica a Comissão esta política da Turquia? É esta política aceitável por parte de um país candidato à adesão à UE? Tenciona a Comissão tomar medidas contra a Turquia, e quais, por usurpação do património dos cipriotas gregos na zona ocupada de Chipre?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Membru al Comisiei. − Comisia a luat notă de folosirea proprietăţilor aparţinând ciprioţilor greci în partea de nord a Ciprului. Comisia are cunoştinţă despre această problemă care s-a acutizat odată cu aderarea Ciprului la Uniunea Europeană, la 1 mai 2004, şi împărtăşeşte îngrijorarea distinsului membru al Parlamentului European.

În ceea ce priveşte cazurile specifice la care se referă distinsul membru al Parlamentului, Comisia nu deţine nicio informaţie şi, prin urmare, nu este în măsură să se pronunţe.

Comisia Europeană îşi reafirmă angajamentul său deplin de a susţine eforturile liderilor comunităţii greco-cipriote şi ai comunităţii turco-cipriote, în vederea identificării unei soluţii cuprinzătoare privind problema cipriotă, sub auspiciile Organizaţiei Naţiunilor Unite. O astfel de soluţionare ar determina rezolvarea problemelor în materie de proprietate pe insulă, probleme la care se referă distinsul membru al Parlamentului European.

 
  
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  Γιαννάκης Μάτσης (PPE-DE). - Κύριε Πρόεδρε, είμαι Κύπριος βουλευτής, υποστηρίζω την ένταξη της Τουρκίας στην Ευρώπη από την εποχή του Προέδρου Οζάλ και την υποστηρίζω και σήμερα.

Στην τέταρτη διακρατική προσφυγή το Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων αποφάσισε ότι η Τουρκία είναι υπεύθυνη για το σφετερισμό των ελληνοκυπριακών περιουσιών. Επιτέλους, τι μπορεί να γίνει; Πώς μπορεί να ανεχόμαστε τόσα χρόνια αυτή την κατάσταση; Υπάρχουν πρώτης και δεύτερης κατηγορίας ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα ή η εφαρμογή τους εξαρτάται από το μέγεθος της χώρας;

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − The Commission has always encouraged Turkey to implement all the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. A debate will be held tomorrow in plenary, and this subject will also be discussed.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 46 do DeputadoVural Öger (H-0106/09)

Assunto: Abertura do capítulo "Energia" nas negociações da UE com a Turquia

A última crise do gás entre a Rússia e a Ucrânia evidencia, uma vez mais, a importância da diversificação das fontes energéticas e das vias de transporte de energia da UE. A Turquia, país candidato à adesão, é um país de trânsito estratégico e, nessa medida, muito importante para a segurança energética da UE. Por esse motivo, é extremamente importante que as negociações da UE com a Turquia sobre o capítulo da energia sejam conduzidas sem atritos e não sejam bloqueadas por motivos políticos por parte de determinados Estados-Membros.

Tenciona a Comissão envidar esforços para que este capítulo seja aberto? Poderá apresentar um calendário para esse efeito? Qual é o principal obstáculo a uma abertura sem atritos das negociações sobre o capítulo da energia?

As perguntas n.º 47 e n.º 48 receberão uma resposta por escrito.

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Membru al Comisiei. − Comisia Europeană consideră că Turcia este suficient de pregătită să înceapă negocierile pe marginea capitolului privind energia şi, prin urmare, a recomandat deschiderea acestui capitol în primăvara anului 2007. Punctul nostru de vedere nu s-a modificat cu privire la acest subiect.

Cu toate acestea, deschiderea unui capitol necesită aprobarea unanimă, de către toate statele membre, ceea ce nu s-a întâmplat până în prezent. În contextul crizei energetice recente, suntem întru totul de acord cu dumneavoastră că atât interesele Uniunii, cât şi cele ale Turciei, ar fi mai bine servite printr-o strânsă cooperare şi prin alinierea Turciei la legislaţia comunitară în domeniul energiei.

Începerea negocierilor în domeniul energiei ar contribui în mod hotărâtor la atingerea acestui obiectiv.

 
  
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  Vural Öger (PSE). - Wird sich denn die Kommission dafür einsetzen, dass das Kapitel eröffnet wird, oder wird man erst einmal so lange warten, bis alle Mitgliedstaaten zusagen? Wird nicht von der Kommission auf die Mitgliedstaaten eingewirkt?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − These are the rules. The Commission made a proposal, and now it is up to the Council to decide unanimously whether the chapter is open or not.

So these are the procedures. We have to follow the procedures.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 49 da Deputada Marian Harkin (H-0041/09)

Assunto: Apoio ao mercado

No início de Janeiro, a Comissão comprometeu-se a tomar novas medidas de apoio ao sector dos produtos lácteos e aos rendimentos dos produtores em toda a Europa, num esforço para se opor a certas consequências negativas da crise económica actual neste sector. Tenciona a Comissão assumir compromissos idênticos para ajudar outros sectores e produtores agrícolas que também estão a ser atingidos pela actual crise económica?

Pergunta n.º 51 do Deputado Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0053/09)

Assunto: Sector dos lacticínios da UE

A Comissão apresentou medidas com vista a ajudar o sector dos lacticínios. A Comissão irá reintroduzir as restituições à exportação em favor da manteiga, do leite em pó magro, do leite em pó gordo e do queijo. Além disso, a Comissão irá comprar mais do que as quantidades fixas de manteiga e leite em pó magro, no caso de a situação do mercado o justificar. A Comissão considera que estas medidas serão suficientes para pôr termo à espiral da queda dos preços na UE e que afecta particularmente o sector dos lacticínios irlandês?

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − The two questions by Mrs Harkin and Mr Ó Neachtain mainly concern the same subject. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer them together.

I am happy to say that the Commission has recently taken a number of measures within the dairy sector in an attempt to try to end the downward spiral of prices.

We have already introduced private storage earlier than we normally do, we have also started the intervention system whereby we hope to be able to stabilise the prices for butter and for skimmed milk powder, as this intervention system will certainly remove a lot of quantities from the market.

Originally we entered a level of 30 000 t of butter and 109 000 t of powder, but I have indicated recently that we will be able or willing to go higher than these figures by opening a tender.

Export refunds for the dairy sector were further alleviated recently. We can see that we are faced with a significant drop in the world market prices although Europe has not increased its production, despite the 2% increase of the milk quota which was agreed for last April.

So I think I can say to those people who argue that the drop in prices is due to the increase of the quota that this is not the case, because we can see that in spite of the 2% increase in the quota, production is staying at a lower level than we used to see before.

But with the introduction of the export refunds we should see a situation where we can increase the chances for the European Union’s dairy producers to be present in the world market. At the same time this may also alleviate the imbalance within the dairy market.

In response to the specific question that Mr Ó Neachtain put forward, the Irish dairy sector with a relatively high share of milk processed into butter and into skimmed milk powder, and a relatively high share of export outside the European Union, will in particular benefit from the measures taken by the Commission.

I can promise you that we are closely following the situation in the dairy market; this can be seen from the fact that two weeks ago we actually increased the export refunds in the dairy sector, and we will be willing to take all the necessary steps.

Of course the sector itself also has a responsibility to adapt production to demand, in order to try to restore profitability, and Mrs Harkin wants to know if the Commission has similar plans for other sectors.

I gather that the question might be aimed at refunds for the pigmeat sector. But I must say that at present I do not see any justification for introducing export refunds in the pigmeat sector because we see that the number of pregnant sows and the number of piglets are decreasing; consequently the input on the European market will decrease, and therefore we hope that the result will be increasing prices.

We also have to take into account that for pork production the situation is totally different to the end of 2007 because today the feed input prices, and the energy prices, are considerably lower than when we introduced the export refunds for the pigmeat sector.

So please trust me that we will continue to keep an eye on the situation. I do not underestimate the difficulties in the dairy sector; I think it is decades since we experienced a situation like the one we are seeing today.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). - Thank you for your very detailed reply, Commissioner. You talked about the measures you have taken to stop the downward spiral of prices. As you are well aware, milk prices at the moment are below production prices. Many dairy farmers are hanging on by their fingernails.

I am very pleased to hear you say that you will be willing to take all the necessary steps. By that, are you saying that you would be prepared to make greater use of some of the dairy management tools that are at your disposal, such as export refunds, aid to private storage and intervention?

I would like you to clarify that for me, please.

 
  
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  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN). - A Uachtaráin, ba mhaith liomsa freisin buíochas a ghabháil leis an gCoimisinéir as ucht an freagra cuimsitheach a thug sí. Ach, mar a thuigeann sí, tá deacrachtaí móra ag táirgeoirí bainne. Cosnaíonn sé níos mó an bainne a tháirgeadh ná mar atá á fháil acu air.

Glacaim leis an méid a dúirt tú faoi Éirinn, ach an féidir aon bheartas breise a chur ar fáil – beartas idirghabhála – chun an praghas a ardú ag an bpointe seo? Mar ní féidir leanúint ar aghaidh mar atá feirmeoirí ag leanúint ar aghaidh ag táirgeadh bainne faoi láthair.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). - Commissioner, what urgency and commitment does the Commission have towards ensuring that the dairy market bottoms out? Is there not a danger that, by piecemeal incremental measures, it will take even more time to turn the market? And yet time is the one thing we do not have. Is it not time to be bold with the export refunds? Because, Commissioner, our industry is dying on its feet.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE-DE). - I should like to thank you, Commissioner, and I particularly welcome your decision in relation to reintroducing intervention as a short-term measure only because we have a crisis situation.

Would the Commissioner not agree that we have four problems: firstly, the rate of exchange between the euro and the pound sterling; secondly, the reduction in production as a result of the melamine scandal in Asia and in China; thirdly, the 3% increase in production in the United States and, last but by no means least, our old enemy, Brazil? Would we not need to be constantly monitoring world trends in order to have our answer ready for these kinds of situations?

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − First of all I have clearly signalled that I am ready to use the management tools that we have available. However, we have certain limits and it is very important that the decisions we might take do not mean that at the end of the day we shoot ourselves in the foot. We have to take into account the fact that intervention is a fine and – I was happy to hear – short-term measure. This is because we have to, I would not say get rid of it, but it has to apply to the market at a later stage, which rather prolongs the pain, but we cannot just dump it.

As I said previously, we did show our commitment by increasing export refunds, both on butter and on powdered milk, ten days ago, and we are monitoring the market.

Concerning compensation, it seems that quite a lot of dairy farmers have forgotten that, under the 2003 reform, they were actually compensated via the direct payment, and so an amount not linked to the dairy cow per se, but calculated on the basis of historic production between 2000 and 2002, is now incorporated into the direct payment.

I also sometimes have to remind some farmers that this compensation has already taken place. I know this is not a fully satisfactory answer in this difficult situation, but it has been taken into account.

I sent a very clear signal during the Green Week in Berlin at the beginning of January, saying that I was ready to spend some of the unspent money under the 2009 budget, and the Commission has made a proposal to spend EUR 1.5 billion in 2009 to cover the gap arising from the consequences of the health check not entering into force until 1 January 2010, when the package for trying to meet the new challenges comes into effect.

The question of whether Member States want to spend EUR 1.5 billion is not in my hands, but in those of the heads of state and finance ministers, and I hope it will also be possible, via a sort of lobbying by Members of the European Parliament on their national governments, to push for a solution.

I completely agree on the three reasons for the situation. For Ireland, exporting into the UK with an exchange rate that makes life even more difficult is of course a huge disadvantage specifically for Irish farmers. I do not under-estimate the spin-off consequences of the scandal in China, where some people might be much more cautious over the dairy products they eat and drink.

The increase on the world market does not come exclusively from the United States. We have seen a significant increase taking place in New Zealand, and this has been dropped on the world market with the consequences we have mentioned. I hope that in general, on the world market, production will go down, because this is a general problem and not one only affecting European dairy producers. It is very difficult to make money in the dairy sector at the moment. We will therefore not hesitate to use the tools available in an appropriate and balanced manner.

 
  
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  Presidente. − Pergunta n.º 50 do Deputado Liam Aylward (H-0051/09)

Assunto: Rotulagem dos produtos de carne de ovino

Actualmente não há legislação comunitária específica relativa à rotulagem de origem para o sector da carne de ovino. Por essa razão, há muitas técnicas diferentes de rotulagem dos produtos de carne de ovino no interior da UE.

Tenciona a Comissão introduzir regulamentação sobre a rotulagem dos produtos de carne de ovino que permita ao consumidor distinguir entre os produtos comunitários e os provenientes de países terceiros?

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − I definitely think that European farmers can be proud of their standards and the Commission favours any initiative that helps farmers, not least in the livestock sector, to communicate with consumers about the origin of products.

As the honourable Member states, there is currently no specific EU legislation dealing with the issue of origin-labelling for the sheep meat sector.

Of course, the general internal market rules about labelling and advertising of foodstuffs also apply to sheep meat. These rules require mandatory origin-labelling in cases where consumers might be misled regarding the true origin or provenance of the foodstuffs.

It is not the Commission’s view that there is a general problem of consumers being misled about the origin of sheep meat. Therefore, the recent Commission proposal for a regulation on food information to consumers does not extend the list to which compulsory origin-labelling applies.

I would like to underline that the origin-labelling for beef and beef products is a special case, and I think we all keep in mind from where it came, because it was a spin-off of the BSE crisis. Therefore, in order to rebuild consumer confidence in beef, it was necessary to make more information available to consumers by clear labelling of the product, including its origin.

It is also important to recall that already the existing legislation makes it possible to put in place voluntary labelling of sheep meat. If the whole supply chain could agree on such a labelling system, it could add value to their products to provide consumers with extra information.

For the internal market to function smoothly, the Commission’s proposal for a regulation on food information to consumers introduced a framework for voluntary origin indications.

In particular, as regards sheep meat, when origin is mentioned, information on the different locations of birth, rearing and slaughter of the animal shall be provided. If these production steps took place in different Member States, all origins should be indicated.

Looking further ahead, the Commission is considering whether all different agricultural products should be labelled to show the place of farming and specifically whether EU farming requirements have been followed.

I am aware that, during the public consultation on the Green Paper on the quality of agricultural products, stakeholders in the sheep meat sector have advocated compulsory origin-labelling. In May 2009 the Commission will issue a communication, where we will seek to strike the right balance between simplification, transparency and product specification. A conference organised by the Czech Presidency will take place on this issue on Thursday and Friday this week, and I am sure we will have a lively and interesting discussion on labelling. It is important. It is not always easy, because nobody wants to read a novel on the back of food in supermarkets, so I think we should try to find a balance and the right solution. I am happy with all the comments that we have already had on the Green Paper.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (UEN). - Thank you Commissioner. I particularly welcome the Conference that is going to take place and indeed we can be very proud of the standard of our food products in Europe – I certainly agree with you on that.

I want to refer, however, to the proposed compulsory electronic identification of sheep, which commences in January 2010, and which the Commission is determined to press ahead with despite the opposition of the Agricultural Committee members and the farming organisations. We have, as Members, challenged the operational and cost implications of the compulsory electronic identification, and the disastrous consequences for an industry already in serious decline. Would the Commission consider granting a further deferral or removing the compulsory nature of this proposal? Failing that, would the Commission consider meeting the additional costs of compulsory electronic identification?

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. − First of all, I should say that if you want an in-depth discussion on electronic earmarking on sheep then, as you probably know, you have to invite another Commissioner – the Commissioner responsible for consumer protection – but I will be happy to give my remarks on this issue.

There seems to be unanimity now in the Council on this issue. I have the opportunity to travel quite a lot and I meet many people who consider that the electronic identification system will kill many smaller producers because of the cost. I think you have to look into the possibility of using rural development funding to try and alleviate the cost of electronic earmarking. There is a line called ‘approximation of standards’ that can be used to call on rural development funding for these extra costs that will certainly be felt by many of the smaller sheep producers.

 
  
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  Presidente. − As perguntas que, por falta de tempo, não obtiveram resposta obtê-la-ão ulteriormente por escrito (ver Anexo).

O período de perguntas está encerrado.

(A sessão, suspensa, às 20h05, é reiniciada às 21horas)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Diana WALLIS
Vice-President

 
Aġġornata l-aħħar: 26 ta' Mejju 2009Avviż legali